What on Earth is Happening with Boston Manor Park?

Former Hounslow Chronicle editor Chris Longhurst on problems with the renovation

What on Earth is Happening with Boston Manor Park?
The chopping down of trees in the park has proven controversial

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An online meeting organised by Hounslow Council to discuss Boston Manor Park is taking place on Thursday 25 March at 7pm. It will discuss the ecological surveys of Boston Manor Park followed by Q&As. Register for your place on Eventbrite.

Friends of Boston Manor Park Set To Depart

Friends of Boston Manor Park


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Like many people, I read the news of the impending departure of the Friends of Boston Manor - from the park that inspired their name - with a mixture of dismay and confusion. What on Earth has caused trust between the group and Hounslow Council to erode to the extent that its members are apparently unable to promise their 18-year tenure will continue beyond 2021?

I have lived and worked in the local area for over 10 years now, but my love of Boston Manor goes right back to the early 1980s when my grandparents – who lived in Hanwell – used to take me there as a toddler. In fact, our family’s connection extends way beyond my own living memory. Not only did both my mum and my aunt attend the school which used to occupy the famous Jacobean-era House, but somewhere in our photo archive is a photo of them both with my grandfather standing atop the newly constructed M4 flyover taken shortly before its grand opening in 1964.

How different were things back then? Well, actually, not all that different at all. The duck pond was the same size as it is today and still had the same impressive variety of ducks and other wildlife living on - and beside - it. The House was still the jewel in its crown, and the most essential element as far as any kid was concerned – its playground – was in place. Although, in those days it was located where the car park is now and lacked all but the most basic of safety features, as I know all too well having fallen off the monkey bars onto solid concrete more times than I care to recall.

So, it’s no exaggeration at all to say that I absolutely adore Boston Manor Park. It is a green oasis keeping the seemingly endless development of Brentford and Hanwell at bay. A sanctuary to retreat to whenever times get tough. A vital community resource whose value has never been more obvious; especially as the past year of lockdowns and social isolation caused by the Covid pandemic have put such severe restrictions on our freedoms and mental health.

All of which makes my recent visit so upsetting, as there is no denying that the place has been radically – and irreversibly – altered as part of the large-scale Reconnecting Boston Manor Park project; stage 2 of which began late last year using £3.6m of Heritage Lottery Funding.

No matter which of the many entrances you choose to enter the park by, the first thing that hits you is the dramatic loss of trees. Where once stood clumps of dense, dark, almost forest-like splendour, what confronts visitors now is great swathes of bare earth dotted by the few spindly specimens lucky enough to have escaped the chainsaw’s cull.

Nowhere is the contrast more stark, then when you stand at the pavilion café and find that you can now comfortably see all the way down to the Grand Union Canal as all the trees which used to obscure your view have gone.


Video produced by local resident

This is also the section of the park which is looking the most sorry for itself. The grass has been churned into a frenzy of mud and is covered in deep murky puddles. For some bizarre reason the railings separating the park from the canal side have been removed, meaning there is nothing in place now to prevent people from falling into the water. Not even a warning sign.

Not only that, but the thinning has revealed the previously hidden sight of a large makeshift building covered in ugly sheets of plastic in which apparently dwells the park’s resident hermit. It is unclear who exactly owns the land on which the eyesore is currently standing – nor is it immediately obvious what, if anything, should be done about its presence. All I know is that once again, these works have only served to spoil the park, not enhance it.

The un-ignorable presence of the M4, coupled with the Heathrow flightpath overhead, means that Boston Manor has never exactly been famous for its peace and tranquillity, but at least the number of trees always served to muffle the roar of passing planes and traffic. Now, almost nothing exists to smother the din. On top of that, recent air-quality surveys have given more than a little cause for concern about the quality of what visitors are breathing. While the obvious solutions to this issue (reducing car journeys and relocating London’s biggest airport) are understandably beyond the council’s control, it is hard to see how removing the natural filters is going to help the park to improve on this point.

Returning to the area where the pavilion stands, it is hard to describe what my feelings were on being confronted by the sight of a line of stumps where once had stood a proud file of beautiful blossoming plum trees. Likewise the attractive hedgerow and well-tendered flower beds have been similarly scrubbed from history.

“Yes”, new trees will be planted in place of the plums, “yes” a new border is apparently going in place of the beds, and “yes”, the works carried out so far as part of the project have had some undeniable positives. Chief among these is how much more attractive the pond looks now that it has been cleaned and surrounding vegetation given a much-needed tidy-up. However, it should never have been allowed to fall into such a state in the first place.

The same could be said of the justification for many of the other works being carried out under the Reconnecting Boston Manor banner. The volunteers of the Friends group – assisted by the efforts of the Community Payback service – have done their utmost to maintain and improve the park for all its users, but none of them are miracle workers. They needed help, financial support, and above all clear planning and guidance from the local authorities; and to most visitors it is clear they did not always receive these things.

Hence the fears they may decide not to return even once the project is completed.

While it is possible to find some of the plans for the project online – and there are signs on the park noticeboards inviting you to do so – it was obvious from speaking to other park users on the day of my visit that the majority were neither aware of the existence of it, nor the need for such large-scale changes. The phrase I heard more than any other was “but, why?”

During the time I was on site, the park never ceased to be busy, it’s popularity failing to dampen even when the leaden skies gave way to heavy rain showers. It is a true community centre in every sense of the phrase. As such, it is too precious to lose and deserves to be treated with care and respect, especially in regards to its future prosperity.

Even if we are generous and accept that the biodiversity will recover, the landscape will be restored, and the facilities and park attractions significantly improved and expanded, the fact is that for most of us these ‘benefits’ are unlikely to materialise in the short, or even medium-term. Indeed, I expect it will take a significantly long number of years before locals - like myself - who have treasured and irreplaceable memories of Boston Manor find the new version compares in any way to what existed before.

The park may well shine again one day, but how many of us will still be there to see it when it does?

Chris Longhurst

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March 28, 2021